One of the main attractions in Quartermaster Harbor is the labyrinth of trails, 12 miles worth, that meander through Dockton Forest. These forest trails are often overlooked by boaters who visit Quartermaster Harbor, unaware of the hidden forest trails located across the road from Dockton Park. To access the trailhead, look for the stairs near the children’s playground at Dockton Park and cross the road at the crosswalk. Be sure to pick up a trail map from the box at the trailhead; the complex series of trails can make choices difficult since none of the trails are marked with signage. A trail map can also be found online. Anchor the mothership off Dockton Park and come in by dinghy or kayak, or tie to the day-use float located below the ramp at the public moorage facility, providing convenient access to Dockton Park and the adjacent Dockton Forest.
Dockton Forest is made up of several parcels of land interconnected by trails: the 86-acre Dockton Forestland, the 40-acre Dockton Natural Area, and the 257-acre Maury Island Natural Area with beautiful madrones. Trails lead across Maury Island, where you can enjoy fabulous views of East Passage and the Cascade foothills from the bluff above. The remains of a rock quarry that began operations in the 1940’s can be seen below the bluff; a large gravel conveyer now stands silent. Past efforts to expand the quarry operation were met with opposition, and the property is now part of the Dockton Forest trail system. The trails are well maintained, mostly covered in gravel from the old quarry. From Dockton Park, it’s about a mile hike to the vista, with an elevation gain of approximately 300 feet. Hikers share the trail system with equestrians, and there is a 3-mile dedicated trail for mountain bikers.
Dockton Park and Moorage Facility
Dockton Park, located in Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon-Maury Island, has long been a favored destination in South/Central Puget Sound with fire pits, a picnic shelter, and easy access to trails. The docks, however, have deteriorated over the years and were closed in 2019 due to structural damage. A small portion of the facility has been left open for day-use on a first-come, first-serve basis. The boat ramp and play area are also available, but visitors should note that the restrooms remain closed for 2020, so plan ahead.
Thanks to grant monies from the State’s RCO Boating Facilities Program, and monies from a King County Parks, Recreation & Trails Levy, construction and repairs to the Dockton moorage facility will begin soon. The first phase of construction starts this August 2020 and includes replacing the old interior wooden creosote piles with steel piles, replacing finger dock sections with grated floats, and the addition of a new pumpout station. Boaters should expect to find a large barge and piledriving equipment at the marina in late summer of 2020. The marina may need to close completely at least a couple of times during construction for approximately a week each; in which case, boaters will need to anchor out and use the beach for dinghy or kayak landings. Future phases of renovation will include replacing the remaining creosote piles and the floats on the outer breakwater section, along with other maintenance upgrades.
King County Parks anticipates re-opening the interior finger pier section of the marina in April of 2021. In the meantime, boaters can use the day-use portion of the old docks when available, or plan to anchor out. Quartermaster Harbor offers ample anchorage in depths ranging from 35 to 48 feet. The northern inner harbor has shallower depths of 14 to 17 feet and is a lovely area to explore by dinghy. Vessels 25-32 feet might find guest moorage in the inner harbor at Quartermaster Harbor Marina; guest moorage is in unoccupied slips, call ahead for availability. Be sure to follow the private lateral markers as you pass Quartermaster Yacht Club on your way to the marina.
The tiny village of Burton, consisting of a grocery store, coffee stand, gift shop, and post office is within steps of the marina. You can even get your hair cut at the “Chop Shop.” The Lavender Hill Farm, located on 104 Ave. SW, is often open for U-Cut lavender. The farm is just up the hill from the old Fire Station. You can also access the village by dinghy or kayak via a public beach along the northwest shore of outer Quartermaster Harbor in front of a street end, where Vashon Highway SW meets the waterfront immediately south of the village of Burton. The beachfront property is a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) parcel centered at 47°23.268’ N and 122°27.972’ W. It’s best to access the beach at high tide and in settled weather. Private property is located on each side of the DNR parcel.
Quartermaster Harbor is an interesting place to explore, with more secrets yet to discover along its shorelines; we recommend spending enough time here to truly enjoy the Vashon-Maury Island lifestyle. There are a number of good anchoring opportunities in various areas of Quartermaster Harbor providing room for a large number of boats.